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Dr. Mookerjea - Cultural Studies 11

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University of Alberta
Sourayan Mookerjea

SOCIOLOGY 345 SEMIOTICS THE PRODUCTION OF MEANING The Code. what is the code that lets a traffic light communicate what it does? how does a code generate messages? CODE - sometimes used synonymously with the word grammar, the rules to use the language. in terms of semiotics, there are key features that make up a code: • a set of things that can be substituted for each other: a paradigm. this is one chapter of a code. in a traffic light, the substitutable elements are the positions: top, middle, bottom. that is the system of substitubable elements, those things that can be chosen between. • combining the substitutable element. the way you combine things is the syntagmatic axis. paradigmatic axis: what is substitutable. (words?) syntagmatic axis: how you combine what you have chosen from the substitutable possibilities. (grammar?) ie traffic lights paradigmatic axis: top (green), middle (yellow), bottom (red). syntagmatic axis: rules for combining these three options. takes everything logically possible and only allows certain things and thus allows meaning to be generated through convention. permitted sequences in our syntagmatic axis: top to middle, middle to bottom, bottom to top. what is not permitted: top to bottom, bottom to middle, middle to top. Code is made up of the paradigmatic axis and syntagmatic axis. the message is go, clear the intersection, and wait/stop. this is an arbitrary/conventional/systemic sign where the meaning is only taken from the shared understanding of a code rather than anything actually in the referrent. SYSTEM OF DIFFERENCES WITHOUT POSITIVE TERMS we ask not what something means but how something means the production of meaning is a material process like any other material process, thus there are laws of the production of meaning. this is very marxist in this sense. we then ask what the smallest particle/component that semiotics deals with? - THE SMALLEST PARTICLE OF MEANING IS DIFFERENCE. We can demonstrate this with the sound-system of english words: pit bit bid bad bag rag lag lap lip tip sip sis miss, all are different english words but each one is only different to its neighbor by one sound. it tells us that these sounds are what linguists call phonemes in the sense that they make a meaningful difference. it is just like binary code: it is the differenc▯ between 0 and 1 that makes meaning out of the arbitrary. by assigning deliberacy to each difference, that difference can then be employed to mark a meaning out from the chaos. some differences are meaningful and some are not: ie in english there is no difference attributed to the difference between an aspirated p and an unaspirated p. this is the way analytic logic works. everything is analyzed in terms of differences. it is always a hierarchy of this or that. it is a key foundation for the way 'linear gutenberg man' thinks, according to mcluhan. McLuhan's resonating interval thing is all about another way of thinking that is not this or that but both / and because you must hear both the parts together and in sequence to draw the implications out. so he thought maybe new medias could teach us to think differently. PARADIGMATIC ELEMENTS: p, b, t, d r, l, g these can be combined with the it sound: pit, bit, tit, dit, rit, lit, git INFINITE ENGLISH SENTENCES the dog chased the cat a dog chased this cat the big dog slowly chased this fast cat ----these are fine dog the chased the cat a slowly dog chased a this cat fluffy the dog chased etc ----these don't work chom
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